Food & Friends Executive Director Carrie Stoltzfus wants people to know that the organization will continue making food deliveries to people suffering from serious illnesses, even as local residents begin to isolate themselves in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“As of today and this moment, we're still delivering,” Stoltzfus told Metro Weekly. “We have a lot of safety measures in place, that we've had in place for years, to protect our clients. All the hand-washing and hygiene guidelines being put out by the CDC have been part of Food & Friends' culture, policy, and operations for decades.”
Stoltzfus says the organization, which provides meals to people suffering from serious illnesses, is telling its employees to follow advice from public health experts and guidelines from the D.C. Department of Health stating that people who are ill should remain at home rather than report to work, lest they risk infecting others.
“That's been party of our policy for our volunteers and staff for years, because our purpose is to take care of people who are already sick,” she says. “We want to make sure we're following guidelines while also getting food out to our clients.”
Stoltzfus notes that Food & Friends is ordering additional food, so that if people are told to distance themselves from others or self-quarantine themselves for a few weeks, they will have enough to get through that period of time.
To prevent the spread of germs and viruses — both COVID-19 and otherwise — Food & Friends undertakes a routine deep cleaning of office services, particularly “high-touch” areas like doorknobs, handrails, elevator buttons.
The kitchen is subjected to biweekly checks as part of the regular course of operations. Staff are provided with Purell hand sanitizer in addition to being required to wash their hands regularly with soap and water. Office staff have also been provided with Lysol wipes to wipe down their phones, keyboards, mouse, and other surfaces.
“The cleaning we do here is part of our culture, because we're here to take care of people who are already vulnerable, so we have even higher standards for ourselves,” she says. “We've got really robust policies in place, and we're just continuing to make sure those are followed on schedule.”
If a client happens to test positive for COVID-19, Stoltzfus says that Food & Friends will continue to make deliveries, but will do it in a way that allows the organization's staff or volunteers to avoid direct contact with the infected person, such as leaving in on the doorstep.
She notes that this practice has been in place since the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when some HIV-positive patients would develop tuberculosis.
Stoltzfus adds that those who have underlying health issues and cannot get to the store to buy groceries are encouraged to contact Food & Friends for help.
“If someone is HIV-positive and sick, they should be calling us anyway,” she says. “If their situation is exacerbated by everything going on right now, they should call us. We want people to be thinking of us in those critical moments.”
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